• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Ageing Sweden needs foreign students to stay'

AFP/The Local · 3 Mar 2014, 07:56

Published: 03 Mar 2014 07:56 GMT+01:00

During Chinese engineering student Zhao Shuqi's years at Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), she has experienced an abrupt change in policy that has introduced fees for students from nations outside the EU. Zhao began her studies at KTH before fees were introduced in 2011, but since then she has paid a total of 290,000 kronor ($44,000), with the help of her parents and part-time jobs.

That's about ten years of income for the average urban resident in China, and what's more, once she has got her diploma, she is likely to be asked to leave the country, unless she does something about it.

"I must find a job before I graduate, or else I cannot stay," she said.

Since introducing fees Swedish universities have struggled to attract foreign students, and critics now warn its visa system pushes highly qualified graduates out of the country. Until 2011, Sweden was one of the few countries in the world to offer free university places to all foreign students, attracting nearly 8,000 in the final year of the scheme. But when fees were introduced for non-EU nationals enrolments dropped by 80 percent to 1,600 with the greatest fall-off among African and Asian students.

Sweden still offers stipends for particularly qualified post-graduate students from non-EU countries. But not enough to fill the empty seats left in lecture halls, like at KTH, which is one of Scandinavia's most prestigious centres of higher learning and receives 5,000 applications per year for foreign bursaries but can only offer 60 funded places.

KTH's president, Peter Gudmundson, said that foreign graduates have contributed to Sweden's industrial development and are seen as ambassadors for the country.

"It's quite common that they take jobs in Swedish companies outside Sweden," he told AFP.

But taking up jobs in Sweden is somewhat harder, unless students are recruited before graduation. In a recent op-ed article in the daily Dagens Nyheter, KTH president Gudmundson argued for a review of the fees decision and better visa arrangements.

His counterpart at Gothenburg University, Pam Fredman, co-authored the article and said that Sweden makes it too hard for students who have lived in the country for several years to get visas, and that Sweden needs better links between education and industry.

Carl Bennet, the head of a large investment fund, is one of several business leaders who has spoken out about the problem.

"We must create a basis for them to stay and work in Sweden," he said.

When foreign students finish their studies they face a race against the clock to find work and get employment visas before their student visas expire -- just 10 days after graduation. Despite 76 percent of students saying they want to stay in the country and work after graduation, a mere 17 percent succeed, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group.

Apart from the cost of funding foreign students' studies, the decision to impose fees was necessary, said Tobias Krantz, the minister for higher education at the time and now head of education at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. The reason: large numbers of non-paying students distorted the education market.

Story continues below…

"Swedish higher education must compete in the global market," he said, adding that overseas students should look to Sweden because they want to benefit from "a high level of education, not because the university entrance is free of charge".

Krantz believes Sweden can become a top destination for foreign students once again "if Swedish universities take on that challenge and they are given the right incentives to do so". With an ageing population and growing skills shortages, particularly in healthcare and IT, the government will come under increasing pressure from industry to tackle the graduate visa issue, however.

"In the future Sweden needs more, especially high-skilled, people to come to work here in order to preserve and maintain Swedish welfare," said Krantz. 

Ariane Picard/AFP/at

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish court detains 'terror plot' suspect
Attunda district court north of Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Swedish court detains 'terror plot' suspect
17 minutes ago

UPDATED: A man based in the Stockholm area has been detained on suspicion of preparing to carry out an act of terrorism in January.

Housing crisis
Housing market cools after 2015's crazy price hikes
Apartments in Gröndal, Stockholm. Photo: Lars Persson/TT/SvD

Housing market cools after 2015's crazy price hikes
19 minutes ago

Property prices in Sweden are now stable or rising slowly, market experts say.

Alexandra Mezher killing
'15-year-old' who 'killed' refugee worker is an adult
Alexandra Mezher (left) and candles left outside the home in Mölndal last month. Photos: Private/Adam Ihse/TT

'15-year-old' who 'killed' refugee worker is an adult
56 minutes ago

Sweden's Migration Agency has told The Local that the suspect accused of killing Alexandra Mezher at a home for unaccompanied refugee children is actually over 18.

The Local Recipes
How to cook ridiculously delicious Swedish reindeer
Traditional Sami cooking methods. Photo: Lola Akinmade Åkerström/Image Bank Sweden

How to cook ridiculously delicious Swedish reindeer
1 hour ago

Cast Rudolph and his friends to the back of your mind and feast on this traditional dish known as tjälknöl in Swedish.

First gig for Paris attacks rockers looms in Stockholm
The Eagles of Death Metal performing at a Swedish festival in 2012. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

First gig for Paris attacks rockers looms in Stockholm
15 hours ago

The Eagles of Death Metal will play their first solo concert since the Paris attacks, at a small gig in the Swedish capital this weekend.

Swedish cop lets suspect go 'because it's Friday'
Fighting crime the Swedish way. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Swedish cop lets suspect go 'because it's Friday'
17 hours ago

This is how seriously the Swedes take their work-life balance.

Is this our last glimpse of Swedish royal's baby bump?
Princess Victoria, centre, at the Global Change Awards. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Is this our last glimpse of Swedish royal's baby bump?
21 hours ago

Sweden's pregnant crown princess has made her final public appearance before the birth of the country's next baby royal.

Sweden slashes interest rate to new record low
Sweden has had negative interest rates since last year. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden slashes interest rate to new record low
22 hours ago

Sweden's central bank has cut the country's already historically low interest rate even further.

Swedes will not send jets to help French fight Isis
A Jas Gripen used in an Arctic exercise last year. Photo: Foto: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

Swedes will not send jets to help French fight Isis
1 day ago

UPDATED: Leaked documents suggest the Swedish military can't afford to send Jas Gripen jets to support France's fight against Isis.

Swedish terror convicts won't have nationality stripped
A group of pro-Isis protesters in Iraq in 2014. Photo: TT/AP

Swedish terror convicts won't have nationality stripped
1 day ago

Politicians have rejected a proposal to stop Swedes convicted of terror crimes retaining their nationality.

Sponsored Article
US taxes and FATCA: 'The time for hiding is over'
National
Can you spot the dildo in this photo?
Sponsored Article
Just landed? Here's the secret to finding work in Stockholm
Culture
Seven facts about the shy Swede behind the world's pop music
Travel
Why are people so happy in Malmö?
Blog updates

9 February

Förr, förut, förrän, före and … innan! (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! A long time ago, I got this question: It would be a huge help if you could…" READ »

 

5 February

Editor’s blog, February 5th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, A friend of mine wrote from abroad this week to ask me if international media…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
How to set up shop in the 'Silicon Valley of Sweden'
National
Less than one percent of Swedish crimes linked to refugees
Sponsored Article
Luleå: 8 winter must-dos in Sweden's far north
Features
Single? Here are the ten Swedish words you have to learn
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Lindesberg, Örebro
Lifestyle
VIDEO: What's the fuss about Sweden's semla bun?
Sponsored Article
Swiss hospitality: The ladder to your international career
Culture
Ten fab Swedish hits for February
Sponsored Article
Ice magic at north Sweden island lodges
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: February 6th-7th
Travel
Stockholm's eight REAL no-go zones
Sponsored Article
Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget
Gallery
People-watching: February 3rd
Sponsored Article
Lofsdalen: The real Swedish wilderness
National
'How confronting the man who robbed me gave me closure'
Analysis & Opinion
DEBATE: Why are Swedes so obsessed with Nordic skiing?
Culture
See which Swedish museums are now opening up for free
Gallery
Property of the week: Insjön, Nacka
National
VIDEO: Tensions caught on camera inside Swedish asylum home
Gallery
People-Watching: January 29th - 31st
International
How will Sweden deport up to 80,000 failed asylum seekers?
Sport
When you gotta go... Swedish racing dog does poo and then takes gold
Sport
Guess who just got a HUGE pay rise?
Travel
WATCH: Five top tips for safe ice skating on Sweden's gorgeous lakes
Gallery
People-watching: January 27th
National
'Sweden could be at war within years'
3,476
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se